ILAGAN CITY, ISABELA -- World Juniors Championships campaigner Exequiel Jucutan on Monday led Pangasinan to victory at the start of the boys' team tennis competition in the 2019 Philippine Youth Games-Batang Pinoy Luzon qualifying leg here.
Jucutan, the country's No. 1 player in 14-under category, stamped his class over Leonard Papa of Tarlac, 2-0, while Kirk Dion Agustin also won his match against Alexander Domingo, 8-0, in the other singles match as Pangasinan marched into the quarterfinal round against Quezon City.
Under the scorching heat of the sun at the Ilagan Sports Complex hard courts, Jucutan played brilliantly to stay in the hunt for the gold medal he failed to win during last year's qualifying hosted by Vigan City in Ilocos Sur.
"We won the team event but I lost to my teammate, Joshua Molina, in the individual event," said the 13-year-old Jucutan, who was born and raised in Manaoag town.
Molina has turned 16 years old and is no longer eligible to compete, thus, boosting Jucutan's winning chance in the Batang Pinoy, a grassroots sports program of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for students and out-of-school children aged 15 years and below.
"There are also good players from other teams. But I am trying to be optimistic and I will do my best to win," said Jucutan, who attends a home-school program under Seibo College in Malabon.
Despite losing the gold medal to Molina in Vigan, Jucutan managed to win the gold at the Batang Pinoy National Finals in Baguio City. He teamed up with Molina to win the doubles bronze medal.
"After playing at the World Juniors Championships pre-qualifying, I can say that the experience there will definitely help my game here," said Jucutan.
Jucutan together with Marc Andrei Jarata and Axl Lajon Gonzaga made up the team that finished third among 12 countries at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Juniors Championships pre-qualifying event in Colombo, Sri Lanka two weeks ago.
In 2017, Jucutan and Jarata played for Region 1 that won the gold medal in the Palarong Pambansa in Antique. (PNA)